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Lawmakers debate citizenship question on census

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A year out from the 2020 census, there’s a debate heating up on Capitol Hill about a specific question.

It’s a new question that would ask if the respondent is a citizen of the United States. Democrats are pulling out all the stops to ensure it isn’t included.

“The Democrats are doing everything they can to stop a simple question,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in a recent meeting of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

“The committee is simply trying to determine the real reason Secretary (of Commerce Wilbur) Ross added the citizenship question,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who chairs the committee, countered. “We want an accurate count. That’s the bottom line.”

Democrats have voted to issue a subpoena demanding the Trump administration turn over its unedited communications about the decision to include the citizenship question. The White House continues to defend the question, arguing the data will help prevent voter fraud.

Democrats say it may intimidate immigrants, who fear discrimination.

“It deters people from participating…” Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., argued. “And that deterrence impacts federal dollars from coming to states like Indiana.”

The national count dictates everything from voter districts to distribution of human services in communities across the country. Carson said the citizenship question will lead to an undercounting of the immigrant population and that, in turn, take away resources from diverse Democrat-held districts like his.

“I think infrastructure efforts, I think educational efforts, I think job creation efforts are all impacted,” Carson listed.

While Democrats say the question is a power grab, Republicans say Democrats are playing a political game.

“House Democrats don’t believe anything the president says, so this shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re saying they don’t believe him,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said.

His is among several states that people are leaving in search of jobs. The movement means the state could lose congressional seats after the census.

“I don’t think (the citizenship question is) going to have much of an impact at all,” Kinzinger said.

The question has also been challenged in court. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on it beginning April 23 and should issue a ruling before the June 1 census deadline.

Regardless of the outcome, the U.S. Census Bureau says it is on track to send out the survey on time.